Boils are common infections in both children and adults. Boils are painful and can cause a significant amount of discomfort for your child, but they rarely cause complications and generally heal on their own within two weeks. If your child has recurrent boils or a boil that is not improving, consult with your child’s doctor.
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A boil is a painful lump that is initially pea-sized. The area around the lump is red and inflamed. The center of the boil becomes yellow or white as the boil fills with pus, which increases the tenderness your child feels in the area surrounding the boil. By the time your child’s boil has finished filling with pus, it can be as large as a golf ball. The boil often oozes fluid. As the boil drains, the pain subsides and the size shrinks. The areas most commonly affected by boils are the face, armpits, buttocks, thigh and armpits.
The most common cause of boils is staphylococcus aureus bacteria entering a hair follicle of the skin. If your child has a scrape or cut, it damages the hair follicle, then the bacteria can enter deeper into the epidermis. The pus in a boil is a combination of old white blood cells, dead skin cells and bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Your child has an increased risk of boils if he is diabetic or anemic or has eczema or an immune deficiency.
Keep boils clean at all times. Apply a warm compress to the boil for 10 minutes several times per day to promote drainage, which speeds the healing process. Once the boil starts draining, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to your child’s boil and keep the area covered with a bandage. Large boils that penetrate deeply into the skin's layers sometimes require surgery. A small incision is made into the boil so the pus drains. Antibiotics are either applied topically or administered orally. Do not squeeze, pick or cut a boil since this leads to inflammation and can push the infection deeper into the skin.
Boils can be spread from one area of skin to another, so keep your child’s boil covered so he cannot touch the affected area. Use antibacterial hand and body soaps to discourage an overgrowth of staph bacteria on your skin. Encourage your child to wash his hands frequently and take daily showers. If your child is too young for a shower, give daily baths. Use hand sanitizers if a sink is unavailable for hand washing. Do not share towels or other personal items since the bacteria can be transferred from an object to another person’s skin. Thoroughly clean all of your child’s cuts or scrapes.